9/11 Fatigue

In Sina's Posts on September 11, 2011 by SN

It is this time of the year. 9/11.

My personal interest in American culture in general and New York City in particular as well as my academic development in American Studies is deeply intertwined with 9/11.

Although my personal awakening took place when I lived in the States from 1997-1998, only since 09/11/2001 I started to examine this particular place from an academic point-of-view.

As Tamás is sharing his memories of 9/11 today (sharing one’s own story is a big part of the 9/11 discourse, see below), I shortly want to mention where I was. I was watching the tragedy unfolding in Canada where I had just arrived as an exchange student at Trent University. Like in New York City, it was a beautiful day in Peterborough. I remember that I came home from a class and my all of my flatmates were glued to the TV. Yet, they could not give me more information about the black smoke in the TV frame. When I went to the library, librarians had put a TV in the lobby so that everybody could watch the latest developments. My family from Germany also called me to make sure I was alright. So, yes, I agree with Tamás that the TV was the main medium through which we learned about 9/11. Only my Scottish friend’s father, who was up the CN Tower that day, saw the black smoke from the Twin Towers on the horizon of Lake Ontario with his own eyes. This only foreshadowed a glimpse of the catastrophe south of the border.

After 9/11 I frequently visited New York City and followed how it recovered from the traumatic events of that day:

In December 2001 I encountered a still mostly numb city. I saw Ground Zero with my own eyes, smelled the smoke of the rubble, walked past hundreds of pictures of missing people, and reacted to this new situation of my beloved city with several nose bleedings.

9/11/2004: My dear friend Elisabeth and I attended the 3rd anniversary while seeing a largely cleaned-up pit. At that time I conducted interviews at German cultural institutes for my Master’s thesis in New York and Washington.


I visited New York City in 2005, 2006, and 2007 shortly before or after 9/11 to do an internship and conduct preliminary research on my dissertation on media representations of New York City.

9/11/2009: Tamás and I followed the 8th anniversary in Spanish Harlem. As it was a rainy day and cloudy night, we did not go downtown to see the Tribute in Light. At that time, I was attending a seminar at Fordham University on Street Literature and wrote an article about New York street cultures.


9/11/2011: Again, I am away from home, this time south of New York City, in Atlanta. While I am revising final chapters of my PhD thesis, I am hooked on TV watching countless memorial shows, interviews, documentaries, etc.


I notice that in those media reports the stories and memories of the individuals dominate, such as of survivors, of victim’s families, but also stories of rescue efforts or medical problems of first responders afterwards. Those individualized stories aim at re-creating the day and its personal impact. You can almost call it a melodramatic mode where larger socio-political events are personalized through individual stories and excess is used as the main stylistic device. What I miss (from my German perspective at least) is a more critical account of the U.S. involvement overseas, political change after 9/11, and the global impact of 9/11. Those countless personalized stories function to cope with the trauma, to heal the wounds, and ultimately – intertwined with Patriotism and libertarian values – to restore the American national identity after 9/11.


One Response to “9/11 Fatigue”

  1. […] to see the latest developments at Ground Zero. The last time I visited Lower Manhattan was in 2009 with Tamás. Walking to the former WTC site I was stunned by the ongoing construction: The New Skyscraper in […]

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